In a game shrouded by rainfall and drowned out by artificial noisemakers, the Mississippi State Bulldogs took it to Auburn in Starkville by the score of 38-23 to give Auburn its first loss of the season--thus ending its SEC win streak of nine straight games. Dak Prescott, deemed by some to be a dark-horse Heisman candidate, went 18/34 and threw for 246 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He rushed for an additional two touchdowns. Nick Marshall went 17/35 and threw for 209 yards and two touchdowns, but also tossed up two interceptions.
Auburn hurt themselves early in the game with two costly turnovers--a Nick Marshall interception and a Duke Williams fumble--and Mississippi State took advantage of both, jumping to a quick 14-0 lead. The Bulldogs continued to grind down Auburn's defense to make it 21-0 at the end of the 1st quarter. In the second quarter, two field goals and a Duke Williams touchdown grab got the Tigers within 15 points, and going into halftime, Auburn fans seemed to have faith that Head Coach Gus Malzahn and Defensive Coordinator Ellis Johnson would make some critical halftime adjustments. The third quarter appeared to prove this assumption, as Auburn drove the ball 99 yards down field for a Duke Williams 15-yard touchdown grab to make it a one-score ballgame at 28-20--while not allowing the Bulldogs to score.
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs answered in the fourth quarter with a field goal, and later capitalized on a fumble by Ricardo Louis on a kickoff return by scoring a touchdown on the ensuing drive from inside the Auburn 20. The Tigers' final points would come from a Daniel Carlson field goal.
While the game appeared to be plagued by questionable calls from officials (Auburn on the receiving end of six flags for 56 yards), Auburn certainly found ways to make things difficult for themselves. Sammie Coates dropped several balls in a less-than-stellar showing, Auburn's Nick Marshall constantly found himself under pressure from the Bulldogs' stingy defense, and costly decisions impacted momentum--namely, a third-down call at the end of the third quarter resulting in an Auburn punt to start the fourth.
This loss will sting for Auburn fans as the Tigers will look to regroup in a much-needed recovery next weekend during its second bye of the season. However, fans should take comfort in the new playoff system this year--a year in which few analysts believe an undefeated team will make it out of the SEC West. For Dan Mullen and the Bulldogs, it will be a night of celebration as they remain in the top 3 of the college football polls. For Gus Malzahn and the Tigers, it will be a long trip home to refresh, regroup, and prepare for the remaining gauntlet of SEC games ahead, starting at home against South Carolina on October 25th.